SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Asia is undoubtedly the most active of all the regional markets. Europe had a bad week with poor cargo volumes. The Americas appear to have shown a slight improvement, but anything must be better than the previous week.

U.S. Gulf

There has been a bit more life reported in the United States Gulf-to-east coast of South America trades over the past week. A little bit more caustic has been done, ethanol is being discussed, some paraxylene was booked and some small parcels of clean petroleum were fixed. Rates are competitive, with 5,000 ton parcels to northern Brazil fetching mid $50s per metric ton. This is hardly unsurprising, given the amount of both scheduled and unscheduled tonnage in the U.S. Gulf. There are some base oils for sale out of Brazil, too, which has led to a variety of freight enquiries, mostly to Europe, West Africa and India-Middle East Gulf.

Transatlantic eastbound has also been marginally more active than before. Contractual nominations provide a comfortable cushion, and styrene has been fixing across to help fill out remaining space on scheduled ships, with numbers in the low $40s/t for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. It remains a problem for those ships that are fully open to scratch together enough spot volume to warrant going on berth on any particular trade lane.

Some owners would undoubtedly like to steer their ships into Asia where things are better, but the U.S. Gulf to Asia route is very slow. A requirement of 8,000 tons of base oils to Singapore is one of the few spot enquiries seen this week. Rates are in the region of mid-high $50s/t for 5,000-10,000 ton parcels from Houston to Mainport Far East, currently.

The route from the U.S. Gulf to India-Middle East Gulf has seen a few more base oil possibilities apparently, along with products such as ethylene dichloride, phenol and acrylonitrile. Rates out of Houston are typically in the mid $80s/t for a 5,000 ton parcel of base oils to Mumbai.

The U.S. Gulf to Caribbean remains dull with plenty of open space available.


It has been a fortnight to forget for those owners with ships that are stuck in the cycle of trading within the North Sea and Baltic. A large number of them have had idle days since the beginning of July, although the very latest positions would suggest a very slight improvement has occurred as quite a few have earned a few days of breathing space. Freight levels remain low, however, with 13-15/t as a representative range for 3,000-4,000 ton parcels for short voyages along the coast.

Southbound into the Mediterranean is generally stable. There are still a lot of requirements in this direction, typically caustic, ethanol, styrene, benzene and FAME cargoes. All the same, owners are not quite as bullish on their freight ideas.

Northbound is unchanged and there is space available.

Intra-Mediterranean markets have been much quieter than of late. Even the West Mediterranean, which has been the best place to have an open ship due to the variety of cargoes available, has been poor and there are ships that have remained open for a week or so without landing the right cargo.

In the Black Sea, there has been some concern about the firmer stance adopted by the Ukraine government regarding ships that call at the former Ukraine ports of Kerch and Theodosia. At least one tanker that loaded base oils in Theodosia has been named and is being targeted for arrest.

Transatlantic westbound is not quite as busy. There are opportunities for quite a few commodities, in fact, of mostly aromatics, but also caustic, sulphuric acid, cumene, wax and base oils, but in many cases the volumes that are available are very small. Rates are a touch softer, typically low $40s/t for 5,000t parcels from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the U.S. Atlantic Coast.

Europe-to-Far East is slow, but owners are maintaining their discipline on freights and not agreeing to less than mid $80s/t for 5,000 ton parcels. The rates for small parcels, however, have come down and it is now possible to fix 2,000 ton lots from Rotterdam to Mainport Far East in the low $90s/t. On the other end of the scale, around 18,000 tons of base oils were fixed from two ports in Europe to Singapore for a level believed to be in the mid $70s/t.

Rates on the Europe to India-Middle East Gulf route have been under downward pressure due to the slower vegetable oil market from the Black Sea. Many ships had been taking advantage of these cargoes, even ballasting from northwestern Europe, but are now being forced to look for alternatives such as base oil.


July space has become quite tight on a couple of domestic Asia routes, namely northbound and intra-Southeast Asia, boosting freight slightly. Base oils are part of the cargo mix in both these areas, but aromatics are the primary grades. Southbound and intra-Far East services are rather more mundane.

Asia export markets are starting to see interest in August cargoes of benzene to the U.S., as well as sulphuric acid and biodiesel. Several extra vessels are understood to be going on berth to the U.S. Gulf next month, with freight levels talked down into the low $50s/t for the larger cargoes of benzene. There are a lot of small grades being quoted from Asia to Europe, but the ships that still have July space are mostly carrying heated cargoes. Great for base oils, but not so good for the solvents that are quoted. Rates are still in the vicinity of $110/t for 4,000 ton parcels from Singapore to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam.

Asia to India is another very busy route with a lot going on. There is almost no space remaining for July, but there are a lot of enquiries, including for base oils. Owners will likely seek higher freight levels if they are to be incentivized to slot additional tonnage on berth which could take rates for 3,000-4,000 ton parcels from Korea to the west coast of India into the high $50s and low $60s/t.

Palm oil also had a busier week with further shipments seen into India and China. Numbers are bit stiffer too. Space has become very scarce in the Middle East Gulf-India region for the rest of July, despite the fasting period of Ramadan. Rates are firming rapidly and owners with prompt ships are unexpectedly in a prime position to demand premiums. For example, 2,500 tons of easy chemicals from the Middle East Gulf to two ports along the west coast of India are claimed to have attained $70/t. Rates are also firmer for both westbound and eastbound cargoes, with some charterers quoting their prompt requirements even into August in the hope of finding some space.

Adrian Brown is senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London. Information about SSY can be found at Adrian Brown, in the U.K., can be reached at or by phone at +44 1207-507507. In the London office SSYs Panos Giannoulis can be reached at or +44 20 7977 7538 and in Singapore Jordi Maymi at +65 6854 7127.

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